PUBLISHED:March 12, 2012

Lathrop ’06 edits authoritative reference on maritime boundary disputes

Coalter Lathrop JD/LLM ’06 was recently appointed editor of International Maritime Boundaries, the authoritative reference series used by governments, litigants, and scholars. He has brought the project to Duke Law, finding various opportunities for student engagement in the research and editorial process.

Lathrop, an expert in ocean policy and international boundary issues, is overseeing the seventh volume of the series, which records and reports on all of the settled maritime boundaries around the world. Launched in the early 1990s, it is a project of the American Society of International Law and published by BRILL/Martinus Nijhoff, which has introduced an annual electronic update in parallel with periodic printed volumes.

“This series is a key reference for governments and counsel involved in maritime boundary disputes. It contains comprehensive reporting and analysis on all state practice with respect to maritime boundary delimitation,” says Lathrop, the principal of Sovereign Geographic, based in Asheville, N.C., who has represented sovereign nations in disputes before the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. “The periodic volumes report on newly settled boundaries in a systematic way so that scholars can have all the relevant information and documents in one source and in a standardized format.”

The reports, written by lawyers and geographers from a broad range of countries, include analysis of the different factors that contributed to the outcome in each negotiation or litigation, and are presented with maps and the full text of relevant treaties.

Maritime boundary delimitation is a young field compared to land boundary delimitation, Lathrop explains. “The law allowing coastal states to extend their jurisdiction to 200 nautical miles and beyond is relatively new, as are technological advances that allow deep-water oil and gas production. Many maritime boundary disputes are precipitated by the discovery of oil and gas resources.”

While past volumes have been co-edited by one lawyer and one geographer, Lathrop’s background includes both disciplines and in his practice he now offers both legal representation and technical advice to governments engaged in maritime boundary disputes.

Larry Helfer, the co-director of the Center for International and Comparative Law, supported bringing International Maritime Boundaries to Duke Law.

“Coalter Lathrop has developed a growing practice in maritime boundary disputes and has provided unique opportunities for students and recent graduates to help him prepare maritime boundary cases decided by international courts and tribunals,” said Helfer, the Harry R. Chadwick, Sr. Professor of Law. “Providing a home for this authoritative series will expose students to the many legal and technical issues that these cases raise.”

Lathrop is receiving research and editorial assistance in the current academic year from LLM candidate Xiao Recio-Blanco and would like to hear from students interested in getting involved in the project. He can be reached at